Desert Biotic and Abiotic Factors Video

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  • 0:01 Desert Ecosystems
  • 0:43 Abiotic Factors
  • 2:30 Biotic Factors
  • 3:51 Sahara Desert
  • 6:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson we'll learn about the desert ecosystem. Specifically, we'll learn what biotic and abiotic factors are and then look at specific factors present in one example of a desert ecosystem, the Sahara Desert.

Desert Ecosystems

Driving down Route 66 in Nevada you enter Death Valley National Park. As you drive the area seems barren, devoid of life. But when you enter the park service center though, they give you a brochure outlining the unique wildlife present in the desert. They suggest you look for creosote bush, mesquite, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes, or biotic factors. Biotic factors are any living things in a particular ecosystem, such as plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. You're also warned of the abiotic, or non-living factors, such as a lack of water and crippling heat.

Abiotic Factors

Abiotic factors are all non-living factors in an organism's environment. Precipitation, water availability, sunlight, and temperature are all abiotic factors. Deserts are characterized by their lack of rainfall. Although we usually think of deserts as being hot, some deserts can be cold too.

Most deserts get around 10 inches of rain per year. Ground water exists far below the surface and plants have adaptations like incredibly long roots to reach it. Occasional rains provide temporary pools of water in rocks. Deserts get a lot of sunlight due to low humidity and lack of tall plants. Since the desert is so dry there is little water to evaporate and form clouds.

In a forest, towering trees provide shade on the forest floor, but with sparse vegetation, the desert remains exposed to sun during most hours of the day. Temperatures vary greatly in the desert depending on location and time of day. With no water to store heat from the day, the temperature fluctuates immensely.

For example, in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico, temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but dip to freezing 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Some deserts reach temperatures of up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

Deserts exist all over the world. Remember they're not just hot areas. Torgersen Island in Antarctica is a desert biome. Temperatures remain cold all year round with temperatures dipping to below freezing in the winter and only a maximum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the short summer.

Biotic Factors

Biotic factors are all the living things in an ecosystem. Although seemingly barren, deserts are home to a unique community of plants and animals with special adaptations to survive the harsh conditions. The saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona can grow over 24 appendages and up to 2 feet in diameter. It towers above other plants growing up to 50 feet tall. The long appendages and trunk are filled with water, like a water tower. This allows the plant to hold water when short torrential downpours happen saving it for the dry months to come.

Kangaroo rat
kangaroo rat

Kangaroo rats, another biotic factor in the desert mainly live in the western and southwestern deserts of the United States. Like the saguaro, they have special adaptations to allow them to survive in scorching hot deserts. They don't sweat or pant like other animals, eliminating evaporative water loss. They also tend to stay in burrows during the day and come out at night to forage, keeping them cool. Urine is a big loss of water for many animals, so kangaroo rats hold on to most water in their urine excreting extremely concentrated waste. With such little lush vegetation, kangaroo rats have adapted to extract water efficiently from seeds, the main part of their diet.

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